Monday, November 30, 2009

What I Have Been Up To

Well it has certainly been a while since I have updated. I'd like to say I have been way to busy, but in fact I have not. Not any more so then usual anyway. With Holidailes coming up (starts Dec 7), I need to get back into the swing of things here. So what have I been up to? I'm glad you asked. Lets get to it.

On November 14, Daughter#2 and her husband, otherwise known as Wookie, traveled up from their home in the Valley to go with us to the VA Tech vs Maryland football game. The game was played at Maryland. Daughter#2 whipped up a vegetarian chili for us to eat while tailgating. It was cold and drizzled on and off as we partied in the parking lot so hot chili was the perfect choice. It was quite tasty and this from a non-vegetarian. Ann chipped in the a five-level Mexican dip, which was also very good. When it comes to presentation at tailgates, we're not much. We just ate out of the back of our van, but it was all good.

Mmmmmm...the chili was so good. Thanks Daughter#2! Excellent choice! Ann, Daughter#2 and Wookie dig in.

There was, of course, beer. I had picked up a Sam Adams variety 12 pak for us to partake of. My favorite was the Irish Red. I wish I could find it just by itself. Very hard to find though. Part of the 12 pak was a Cherry Wheat, which Daughter#2 shows off here. It sounded interesting, but tasted more like cherry flavored cough medicine. Daughter#2 liked it though.

By game time, the drizzle had stopped and it warmed up a bit. There were as many Hokie fans in the stands as there were Terrapin fans. Given the season the two teams have had (VA Tech - good/Maryland - terrible) and the large number of VA Tech alumni in the Washington area, it's wasn't that surprising. As I'm a fan of both teams, it was hard to decide who to root for. I shot this picture from our seats, Maryland is in black and VA Tech in white. I wasn't a fan of VA Tech's new white helmets.

Next up in November was Thanksgiving. Since the daughters are now married, we do have to share them with the In-Laws for the major holidays. This year we have the Daughters for Thanksgiving and the In-Laws have them for Christmas Day. We'll see them the day after Christmas, which means two Christmases for us. It will be weird just having Christmas Day with just Ann and The Son though. Back to Thanksgiving, it was great having everyone home. Lo the kids (The Son, Daughter#1 and Daughter#2). We are very proud of all three.

There is nothing I enjoy more then a turkey dinner with all the fixings. The leftovers are almost as good. Nothing like a good turkey sandwich the day after. This year we had a 22 lb Butterball.

Daughter#1 is big on appetizers while we catch up with everyone. She fixed us up with some hot cider. Very tasty.

Daughter#1 also made us some zucchini flat bread, which was also very good. She made a regular and a vegetarian version. Sort of like pizza.

We do put The Son to work in the kitchen. We tried a new to us oyster dressing this year, which he put together and which came out great. Definitely a keeper. We also put him in charge of the garlic mashed potatoes. I peel the 5 lbs of potatoes and cube them. Ann cooks them and then The Son does the rest. They come out amazingly good. He'll have this job forever.

We also make accommodation for daughter#2 our vegetarian. We picked up a Tofurky for her. It comes in a box with sides. Having tried it, its really pretty good.

We serve ourselves sort of buffet style. We place all the food on the kitchen table and let everyone help themselves. Except for Gracie, Daughter#2's dog. She doesn't get anything except what her Grandma and Grandpa can slip to her on the side. From left to right: Wookie, Son In Law#2 (married to Daughter#1), me, The Son, Daughter#2 and Daughter#1.

We actually eat Thanksgiving dinner in our dining room. We almost never eat in this room. Just Thanksgiving and Christmas really. From left to right: Wookie, Daughter#2, The Son, Ann, Son In Law #2 and Daughter#1.

On Black Friday rather then fight crowds at the mall, we headed south along I-95 to visit the newest member of our clan (we're Scottish). My Cousin's wife had given birth to their first child - a boy, Cameron Duncan [last name] just 4 weeks ago. We all took turns holding him and giving baby presents to the new parents. Here Daughter#2 takes her turn

As did Daughter#1

I took a turn as well. It's been quite a while since I've held a baby.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well. I am certainly grateful for my family and the joy they bring me. Now its time to cue up the Christmas music and get in the Christmas spirit. Joy to the World!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I love my kids. I really do, but somewhere along the line they seem to have lost that internal compass that we all posses to tell as where we are and which way to go. I think they get this naturally via their mother. I use to jokingly tell the kids as they were growing up that if they were ever lost go in the exact opposite the direction their Mom told them was the way to go. Yesterday The Son went through such an experience although a lot of it has to do with not paying proper attention to detail more then anything else. The Son is currently working in Crystal City. As anyone who lives in the Washington area knows, commuting up I-95/I-395 is a nightmare on the best of days. Accordingly, The Son has bought into mass transit and rides the VRE train to and from work. However, yesterday VRE was running a limited schedule due to CSX, the track owner, working on its signals. VRE couldn't guarantee that the trains would run on time (and was running only a few trains to boot) and suggested its riders find alternate arrangements. We did our research and sent The Son off on a PRTC bus that runs between Woodbridge and Crystal City via the Pentagon. The ride in was uneventful, even quite pleasant, according to The Son. Coming home was a whole different matter. The Son had to go to Alexandria during the day and was late getting back to Crystal City ia the Metro. The Son decided to catch the bus home from the Pentagon rather then Crystal City. He called and I told him what bay to go to catch the bus, the bus number and the time the bus was scheduled to arrive. So far so good. After about an hour or so after that call, The Son calls saying he has no idea where he is. This from a kid (actually an adult) who has lived in this area his entire life. After much heated discussions and not a few profanities thrown in by both sides, we determined that he had gotten on the wrong bus and had ended up at the Mananssas Mall instead of Woodbridge. He was in the western part of the county versus the eastern part. Being the Dad I am, I went and picked him up - about a 30 minute drive each way. By the time I arrived at the Mall, he had calmed down by then and we had a quiet ride back to his car in the commuter lot he had dropped his car off before catching the bus in the morning. The best I can determine, he had never checked the bus number (or the destination listed on the sign on the front of the bus), but just boarded the first bus that showed up at the designated time. Sometimes you just have to pay attention to the little details. Hopefully a lesson learned.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Last Race

This past weekend marked the last race of the 2009 season - The Head of the Occoquan. It's run by the Occoquan Boat Club, which is one of the two rowing clubs I row for/with. The Head of the Occoquan, or HOTO as it's known, is a two day event with college 8+s and 4+s and singles racing on Saturday and everything else on Sunday. I had entered into three races. A single on Saturday, a first for me, and a 4+ and 8+ on Sunday. The races are held on our home water so traveling wasn't an issue. I'd like to say this was the view of the water for Saturday's races, but lo it was not. This photo was taken earlier in October right before the Occoquan Chase. Its the view from the Oxford Boathouse looking out onto the cove that empties into the Occoquan. I just like the way it turned out so I included it here. I wished it was like this all the time when I row.

Saturday's weather was warm, but windy. Considering I was racing in a single, the wind was of some concern. Ann and The Son accompanied me to Sandy Rum where I would launch and recover. I picked up my registration package,which consisted of a bow number for my shell and a number to be pinned on my back. I was number 1122.

My support crew needed nourishment and there was a BBQ caterer on site to feed the hungry masses. So Ann and The Son enjoyed a couple of pulled pork sandwiches.

My launch time was at 1:00 with a start time of my race at 1:45. It takes a while to row to the start of the 3.5 mile race. I was racing in a Peinert 25X. Here I'm at the dock tying in before pushing off.

I was racing in the rec category, which is one step up from novice. It was my first race in a single so I felt it was the proper category. It was pretty neat seeing the gathering of 25 or so singles marshaling up at the start line. I thought my start was good and the first straightaway went well, The turn at Jacob's Rock was also good as was heading down the long straightaway from Jacob's Rock. I had a hard time picking up the buoys at the next turn and having a Marshall sticking his boat out on the course and in my way didn't help. I had to maneuver around the first buoy and went a bit wide on the second. The race down the next straightaway where the Oxford Boathouse is located was interesting. Right outside the cove leading to Oxford, I got squeezed in between 2 other rowers overtaking me. I had no where to go and actually clashed oars with the rower to my right. Since I was the slower boat I had to yield so I coasted for a moment to allow both boats to clear. After making the turn by the Painted Rocks and heading toward Sandy Run, the water got really choppy and it was hard to maintain a good rhythm and run. That changed once I reached the turn at Sandy Run. At this point I could also see a friend closing in on me and I used him to pick up my own pace to try and hold him off as best I could. He finality passed me as we approached the finish line of the 2,000 meter race course. At this point there was about 500 meters left in my race. Unfortunately, I hadn't gone out and looked over the course a final time and the finish line was not where I expected it to be. I thought I could cut the final turn and go straight to the finish. I couldn't and almost ran off the course and narrowly missed hitting a huge buoy. Recovering, I start back up and headed off to the finish. Here are two pictures with about 500 meters left in the race.

I was of the understanding that the finish was at the race course grandstand area. As i approached that area, I could hear the officials calling out the finishes for the timers. I thought I had crossed the finish line but was sadly mistaken. I was about 150 meters short. oops! Stupid actually. Here I was just coasting in front of the crowd and I still had hadn't crossed the line. I recovered and finished, but that a pretty bad mistake. Here I am at the finish.

My time was a very slow 27:39.8. The only redeeming factor was that I was only 7 seconds behind the only other rower in my category. My time notwithstanding, it was still fun to do and I plan to try it again next year.
Rowing back to Sandy Run after finishing the race.

Thank god it was warm - at least on Saturday.

Over night a front came through and the weather changed to rainy and cold. The rain was on and off for my 4+ race. It rained as we waited for the start, but over the course of the day, the rain went away, but it stayed chilly. The 4+ race went well for us. We finished 4th with a time of 20:58.6 just under 4 seconds from third. For the 8+ race, I joined a boat with a mixture of our fitness rowers and a novice or two. I had no illusions that we would finish anywhere but last given the makeup of the boat. I did it because I enjoy rowing in the 8+s. We finished last with a time of 20:35. The set wasn't bad, but there was no power in the boat. Our "A" boat passed us right outside our cove and we made them work to pass us so there was that although I think it also drained our tanks and we still had a good 1.5 miles to go. We finished a good 2 plus minutes slower then the "A" boat, which finished with a time of 18:18 to our 20:35.
Back to Saturday, which was also Halloween. I carved a pumpkin for the occasion with The Son lighting the candle inside.

We got almost no Trick or Treaters. Maybe 9 total. That was a bit of a surprise. We never expect a lot as most kids, like ours, are grown and moved away, but we still have kids in the neighborhood. I'm sure the drizzle that was falling didn't help. Just means more candy for us!